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Another Epidemic for the U.S.A to focus on?

Cyrus Ravivarma,

St. Xavier's College (Autonomous),

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India


The Human body is an amazing and mysterious system and is an example of multitasking at its best. Sometimes we wonder how it does all the things it does without procrastinating, perfectly on time! But even it gets addicted to wrong things sometimes. One of them is Opioids.

There are many types of Opioids. Some are prescribed by medical doctors and some are illegally obtained. Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Oxymorphones are types of prescribed Opioids. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Heroin is an illegal opioid.

Opioids are chemically Related and they generally bind to the opioid receptors in our brain. It is generally used for pain relief but also produces intense Euphoric and pleasurable effects. For Instance, you are watching a super boring show on television, but you are on some Opioids, you will have a false feeling that this is the best show of your life and everything is fine until the effects wear down and everything feels gloomy again. And as time passes your tolerance level increases so you take more and of that and the addiction cycle begins and you start moving further away from reality. And So, in short, it’s all a trap!

When a noticeable amount of the population starts abusing opioids and as a result, fatalities increase, there is a crisis. There is an ongoing Opioid crisis in several countries. In the United States, it all began in the 80s. People were using heroin too before that which was illegal, of course, but the number of abusers was not very high for the authorities to notice. In the 80s many people complained of chronic pain, pain after surgery, or people suffering from terminal diseases such as cancer, etc., and a solution was needed. Many U.S states passed bills to allow doctors to prescribe opioids for managing pain. It was reported that among a group of over 11 thousand patients who were prescribed opioids for managing pain due to terminal illness, etc only less than 40 people developed a dependency on it. Other such reports were published which advocated the use of opioids. So there was a misconception that Opioids were only addictive if used recreationally and not when used for managing pain and other medical purposes.

Doctors kept on prescribing opioids and there was illegal heroin on the streets as well. But the sudden outburst and the first wave of the opioid epidemic started in the mid-90s when big Pharmaceutical companies started interfering and introduced their opioid-based medicines in the market. And thus, the first wave of the opioid epidemic began in the mid-90s, due to an increase in prescription natural and semi-synthetic opioids, methadone, Oxycodone, etc. A huge Pharma company called Purdue started manufacturing OxyContin, a sustain-release form of Oxycodone. There were opiates like morphine, Codeine a “Cough Syrup and Pain killer” and Hydrocodone. These big Pharma companies started propagating and advertising their use of products and they claimed that these were pretty safe to use with a very low tendency of developing an addiction. People generally trust reputed companies which fuelled their sales and in turn, the opioid crisis kept on increasing with no end in sight. Companies started approaching doctors in teams and explained to them the benefits of their products and how they can prescribe them to their patients. The United States has a private Healthcare system. So you generally tend to come across some Doctors who are interested in making a little extra money. They started prescribing opioids for people without terminal- Illness, which in turn increased the number of patients and doctors starting earning much more. So, the Vicious Cycle starts. Patients start their medication and over a period of time they get addicted to it and they go back to the doctor for more prescriptions, and again the cycle continues. So when the prescription stops the patient is already Addicted to Opioids, so he turns towards the Streets where he tries to secure some heroin which is 4 times stronger than morphine in terms of pain suppression and euphoric effects. And now slowly he turns into a full-blown addict and his family life and his personal life is in ruins. There is a possibility of him overdosing and dying in the near future. The use of needles can also cause Aids. Now I guess you might have got a slight idea of how the epidemic started. Things like this happened to Millions of people all over the United States. Celebrities in the 90s such as Kurt Cobain (founder of Rock Band Nirvana) was a heroin addict who fuelled his suicidal thoughts, River Phoenix (Brother of Joaquin Phoenix) died in 1994 due to Heroin Overdose.

The Second Wave of Opioid Epidemic Began in 2010 when the number of doctors prescribing opioids reduced and finding an Opioid prescription. So, people started scoring Heroin from the streets. The heroin sold to them was adulterated with various adulterants (rat poison and other toxic substances) which degraded the person's health even more. Sharing of needles caused hepatitis, Aids, and diseases due to a general lack of hygiene. The users usually lose all their money which increases poverty and a plethora of other problems.

The Third Wave began in 2013 when Smugglers started Lacing Heroin with Fentanyl, which is a Synthetic Opioid Painkiller and which is around 30 to 50 times more potent than Heroin! As Fentanyl is synthetic and is much cheaper than heroin, smugglers usually adulterate it alongside heroin to increase its quantity. A very small quantity of fentanyl is enough to cause an overdose in an individual which makes it more lethal. Approximately 128 people Die daily due to opioid overdose in the United States.

Statistical Data of Death due to Opioid Overdose over the years

Famous Rappers Juice Wrld and Lil Peep had reportedly died of opioid overdose. Many of you might Disagree but I strongly feel that “Rap and Pop Culture” has an influence in propagating opioid use. Song lyrics have open as well as subtle references to drug use. Some Rappers even glorify the use of Purple Dank (Codeine) for recreational purposes

This propagates youth to try out substances and in turn increasing addictions and overdoses

The United States government is trying its best to contain the opioid crisis, by implementing stricter medical rules, the crackdown on the import of illegal drugs, and awareness programs, and Helping people join Rehab. We hope the United States emerges victorious in its Fight against Opioids and be a guiding light for other nations who are fighting the same crisis.

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